Prayers to the Drop Ceiling of Lack That’s Descending from Above – Mark Parsons
December 23, 2021
After Orson Welles
Sparkly and spinning and dotted with blue-bottle
The impaction of fecal
Pop culture that’s ossified excrement,
Of constipated narcissistic shit,
Revolves high above gliding light leopard-print hide:
Reverse compound bug eye
Lenses arrayed on a spherical surface projecting and scattering
Light from the embers yet glowing inside the attendant below, who remain in their seats
And in thrall
To the pattern and swirl of the dots
As the audience tamps their extended-capacity magazines
Shaped like bananas against
Their matte-finish black Kevlar flared helmets,
Seating the primers of cartridges flush to the walls of the chambers.
A plain weave of thick battens
Creak under sprung hardwood dance floor
As the heavy, like a penguin,
Waddles out, and wheezing, skirts the crowd,
For this man
Stirred to the dais like cream in a coffee,
Stunned at the gravity
Of an object much greater than him,
Stirred through the crowd, to the dais, his movement
Centripetal, stirred through the big crowd he’s used to the cheap seats,
This newly-centripetal man
Dressed like a Rich Uncle Pennybags,
Mr. Monopoly man.
The crowd parts and makes way for Black Hat, the Fat Man,
Bouncing on balls of his feet as he bobs in the spotlight that tracks him while coming to get his award,
It’s his Lifetime Attrition Award.
Doffing his Homburg,
In white knuckle-damp hand,
With head bowed,
Black satin scarf pussycat bow
Under grey beard,
(‘Cause the jailbird’s no longer in jail)
As he mentions tonight
We’re—all of us—
Jews anymore, and black—all of us—black
Sharing his clemency
After a lifetime of shame and professional infamy
With those other survivors,
Then going on to make his pitch, inviting everyone
To the never-ending party,
Inflicted on reality.
Is he pathetic? Prophetic? Ironic?
This maverick director
So lately let in from the cold of artistic irrelevance.
Pouring his heart out in front of a sunset as yellow and round as a lemon
While indigo slides down the curve of horizon
The bright metal points
That are stars on the fabric of twilight.
His tan trench coat
Snug over corpulent shoulders and trunk,
Wind whistling, foam windscreen
Tapping the microphone,
His eyes wet and heart full, voice trembling,
He recites Shylock’s speech in the Arizona desert at night.
Is he thinking of the future,
Of whatever career he may have, now that the past is atoned for?
Slights imagined, or real
Does it matter?
An angry man, who has gorged on his feelings of anger and rancor, his whole
Life been deprived of depriving an audience—
Necessarily mass—of his genius, been cheated of cheating the public of work
He was never permitted by fate to complete,
He watches his lover and muse,
Former porn actress,
A reality show starlet,
Walk down a somnolent Mediterranean, late
Summer afternoon sidewalk,
Molded to apex of hips as it traces her abdomen,
Showing the beak of clitoris,
A hard bud
That promises pleasure—
The taut fabric slit yawns,
With each step
The wide A-line hem tugged
Into the cleft of the gap between thighs, as she struts like a model who’s walking a catwalk
The old European pedestrian square
Lined with faces of men who have faces like battles they lost to the blitzkrieg,
Their heads turning, necks craning,
Eyes keen and far-sighted,
Hands wiping slack, open mouths,
As the woman he needs
Because she doesn’t need him walks away—
Always walks away—her indifference sublime as gravity.
His daughter years later asks him,
“Is there like video footage of you two together?”
The Gambler Reasons There’s No Such Thing As A Random Number Generator
Gambling with limitless funds, without limits
He’ll eventually win, come out ahead, that is,
The scientist wryly observes.
Maybe she knows what she’s doing he thought,
Before everything started to spin.
The white blur
Stretches and lengthens,
Caresses the visible crescent of vertical
Clockwise no fewer than three times, and loses momentum:
A caterwaul and hiss
That breaks up as it laps and then slows.
Three quarter inches of ivory finding the grade, the roulette
Descends the defensive perimeter,
And then slips from the track: the bottom track notched with fate’s bias, brass
Diamond-shaped studs inlaid on polished grain,
Alternating tangential and radial orientation: eight canoes to deflect the path
Of the slowing, now
Falling ball—three of four
Of the small triangular facets bored with pneumatic jets
(Under table air compressor fed)—
Free-fall that ends with a click,
A record player needle’s skip aloft the groove of reedy squawk
Followed by clatter. The spinning
Rotating counter to rotating wheel-head
That’s counter to rotating varnished mahogany cone at a pitch
Down from the center
And ringed with a series of shallow compartments,
Profile or contour of frets engineered
To exaggerate bounces and broaden the field of the scatter—
Every concentric arrangement conceived
With the aim of disguising an other-than-unsystematic result,
Hiding the truth of statistical memory
Trying to surface and break through the membrane
These serial, randomized boundaries
Nothing is random but things
As they are:
Always a part of the greater conspiracy
That will ultimately
Finding the parapet empty he sees her:
Her shoulders and neck
As she rocks on her heels, swaying like something
Set in a socket.
He can tell she’s responding
To commotion below.
Alternate ball in the steeple of capstan,
For appearances sake
The turret scratches a code with
Its metal taproot in the viscous bottom of the bowl.
Tripping on acid body-hair
Carpet a pale, bony wrist
That emerges from white polyester of sleeve
As the dealer reaches to spin the wheel and then fires the ball—
On the lozenge that’s red.
On the red
Lozenge of throat inflammation.
On the red
The gambler diagrams a ghostly algorithm in
His dusty classroom mind and waits for the dealer to telegraph routine practice
Wed to unconscious expression of force,
Coating the snowball of chance with titanium.
Yes, he’s dressed for success,
Too, while you’re at it,
His extract of confidence bottled and sold
To emasculate dupes who are desperate for hard-ons in China.
The gears crash, the car jumps
A few feet.
A third-rate hotel, greasy spoon food:
What if she said
She wonders aloud to herself and considers
The rust-colored outcrop of lithified sandstone that shows off a frenzied eolian
Wheel without memory,
(But not the dealer)
And with laws to obey,
Compensating for trends, self-correcting, achieves conformation
(The gambler’s faith so strong it wills).
Long did the numbers or color belong to the herd of the past,
The experts say, short-term results
To men sick with slow death.
Every event’s independent, not enslaved to denote expectations
Conformation ongoing but causeless,
Illusion of memory—
Numbers that match probabilities,
Sidetracked by trends, start to feel pressured.
As the future dwindles, the past comes due.
In the throes of winning
The Gambler tips the casino staff and
The dealer shows the surveillance cameras his open palms
To end his shift, making way for
The next in line.
Underwater lights project across the ceiling,
Over the walls
A reticulate pattern of singular
Oscillating to waves that diffract
Back to the tear
In the center
She wears like a halter.
The impulse and lock of watery peaks
Rise and fall
In herky-jerky piston lockstep
To resonate as drips,
A blurry overlap of passing second ticks,
Time’s decay as slick as condensation spotting the tiles,
Mist that beads and forms
Drops to run as rivulets joined together down the slick
Skeins of water,
Dormant pasts and latent futures,
Forever cut off from the current that carries her forward,
Roiling the surface of
Present private moment,
Making visible the tension between what is
And might have been.
She remembers the walk through the park,
Transverse of shadow
Stenciled and cut out of
Cheap, inexpensive, and made by machine,
Matte tint of black paper chain breasts
As crude bunting
Slung between lamppost spires,
Dark scalloped half-moons of Jayne Mansfield
Low neckline scooped cleavage
Toxic heavy metals
Giving tainted milk,
Suckling phantom children,
All the children she didn’t have:
The small tongues
Like one thousand pin pricks.
Her throat wrung-out
Dried washcloth tight, sore,
She swallows like a pill
That won’t go down a thirst she cannot slake.
Stalked through the adolescent night,
Caught in the exercise wheel of her memory.
Driving the sprocket for
Fate’s chevron tread finding grip, dragging
To the apex
The monolith other in effigy,
Unconscious, forbidden knowledge externalized,
The sound of her footsteps
Demarcates a silence,
Chipping away at it, sculpting it
To a loudness that deafens, a face that appears
Out of oblivion, out of inscrutable
Hardness and coldness that brooks not her touch
Because she knows
What another woman doesn’t want her to know.
The ticking has stopped but the presence, imposing, remains, a creation
Crossing in profile the Mobius strip of enlightenment
The web of guilt and fear of retributive justice she projects
Scrawled all around, dancing cross-section
Sheaths of elastin mesh
Stretched over quivering contours of silence.
Abyssal collectivized water of conscience,
Absurdity accenting dread as she realizes silence she hears is the silence
Another woman loves.
In A Trick Bag (You Done Put Me)
“Once they get to be a certain size, they’re kind of a matriarch.”
—Kaleb Summers, Okie Noodling Tournament champion, June, 2012
Mom’s probe- and range-finder jab mounts
Both a defense and an offense,
Great distance control taking his wind
Setting the pace from afar,
Her antenna extended to keep him awake
While she rests in ethereal lassitude covered by insurance
Bought low and sold high to
Only people who were able to afford it
(Therefore no irony)
Not according to plan…
So a lecture.
Tweak the pitch, push against
Crimped elastic sleeves of rastrum lines.
Broad turtle shell lats and
Thighs, backs of knees
Before reverb snaps
In play, danger,
Stuck in the act
As a passive participant
The wide angle
Fish eye of third eye,
A peephole when somebody’s knocking…
For how long he’s not sure, always having just awoken
When urgent knocking stops,
In the gelatin capsule of barrel-distorted convexity
His hooking punches whirl
The two hundred degrees of glass that’s his field of view
As instinct combined with
Or chemically, rather,
Surmounted, takes over,
The eternal question
Of high performance versus torque.
Twisting around on an axis of core, spine, his
Tensing abdominals stabilize,
Flexing in tandem to rotate his arms
That are bent so they look like the satellite view of a cyclone
And ratchet him into a collar
While he drives home a point, arguing with
A version of himself
Ninety-eight dripping wet pounds
In rain, coming home after law school at night.
First person-yoked viewpoint,
Liberal wipes of petroleum jelly,
Light diffusing over gentle curve like surface tension,
The killer pursues and eliminates all of the author’s red herrings until
Only objective reality,
In the guise of the woman he loves,
Remains for him
To confront for both the first and last time,
The final turn of plot
Masochistically unfolding for the author’s proxy,
Narrowing the field of suspects—
Very important that
What exactly happened—
Until the field stands finally empty,
His noirish, multiple selves proceeding to catch
Him in pop psychological crossfire.
Vishnu Descending Depicted As The Figure Of The Scientist in Popular Entertainment Down Through The Ages
Helical stairs in the fortified manor revolve to encircle
The chandelier chain and electrical cord
In a black velvet sleeve
That’s as rumpled and crimped as the profile of kinks in the blade of a lock pick
Raking a path through a keyway and flush to the shearline
Of a brass cylinder
Rotating inside a cylinder
No wider than the barrel of the gun
Dressed in breeches and clawhammer tails,
And leaned over,
Hands on the bannister,
Like he’s listening
For the sound of an object
Plumbs the depth and nicks the sides
Of the darkness filling his eyes
Until he straightens up
Cast a baleful glance over his shoulder,
Tingles of phantasmal plumage like tail feathers
Clawing the base of his spine as he surveys the winders
With eyes that hypnotically spiral like gastropod whorls
At the summits of turbinate shells.
Having been tempted, led astray, into
Because of the money,
Because of a woman
Who needed the money,
Or made him believe she had need of the money,
The former celebrity wildman-turned-domestic clenches his jawbone to grind
Tooth enamel bite-pulse after bite-pulse,
Chiseled to prominent mandible fastened on hinges with cruciform drive screws,
Arms of the crosses at right angles,
Offset to augment the torque of the driver his mind makes,
That strips the threads,
Winding him up to gnash his teeth and rubberneck
The slow motion train wreck
Of his present emasculate circumstance;
Diffracts through an abscess of unresolved trauma,
An open wound that breeched
Widens to radiate out from the death’s head
The keyhole makes, echoing clenched and angry lower jaw.
His head as empty as the pivot point
The model of his virtual invention, which model
He obsessively constructed, made more elaborate and detailed than
The invention itself would ever need to be
Or his avatar, rather, circles restlessly,
The fulcrum of the garret where he sleeps and in vegetable dormancy,
Awaits the next necessity,
At the center of each asymmetrical lap
His new techno god makes
Around its theoretical object of desire.
A hardware guy—
No ideas but inventions take the place
Of every obsession—
An active risk-taker, he spends more time
On the model he uses when he makes the mechanical solution
To his current problems
Than he spends on the thing he aims to make
(That is, himself)
This guy’s a program trapped behind
Enemy lines of code,
Trying to build a machine that will run him,
The program, that is.
Little more than household gossip fodder,
They too will quiet down
Thinking of the other servants.
From the mind he lost,
He remembers the gale that crossed the lake,
When a gale swept across the lake,
Its matte surface rain-roiled until leaden goose flesh
Edged the window vented tower,
The surface churn
By a kind of capillary action
Into this fortified turret that looks like a punch card.
His attic room resounding with impressionistic swarming of concavities,
Tide pools of stored percussive noise,
Indentations on reflective
Clicking back true
Somewhere, sound that laps all around
Wakes him from bearing the intricate surface of useful employment.
With psychedelic pigs, he heads down stairs
To tend and wait on the eagles
In a permanent sloth of refinement and ease
Around the fireplace.
Lacking the natural grace of a Fred or a Ginger,
A Michael or Janet,
All spontaneity labor intensively
He takes another step.
A powdery sheen of the sheerest silk stockings
Lustrous over skein-like ridges
Of a well-muscled calf
He dips the toe
Of one buckled silk damask, steel-pattened court shoe
Into the space above the step
Flicker of changes in ambient light
Compressed through time
Guttering riser and tread.